Now we get into the fun stuff. In this article we'll attempt to explore a broad range of weightroom-based training modalities you could use to boost power in you or your athlete. We'll provide some example plans with each...
Olympic Gold Medallist Thorsten Margis using heavy half squats to build super-power. Varying ROM can be hugely beneficial to shift more load at more event-specific ranges.
Now, as mentioned, we're going to explore a fairly broad range of training options you could go for to boost your power in the weightroom. See what you or your athletes like (or dislike), what they respond well to (or not) and which bits you pick to help facilitate the specific adaptations you are wanting to achieve. Triphasic approach, Complex, Contrast and French Contrast training are the 4 elements we'll look at in this piece and how you can actually interweave them, so let's see what potential options you could have in your power-training toolbox.
*Note: We will return to this article with example exercises seen in the plans below coupled with video demonstrations. Bear with!*
Before we get going, let's tidy up a couple terms you're going to see that these training methods utilise or enhance:
1. PAP (Post-activation potentiation): A phenomenon that basically means a muscle's temporary increase in contractility and subsequent ability to produce force - better.
2. RFD (Rate of Force Development): The speed at which the muscle can contract to produce force. Obviously an increase in this is a desired outcome when training for power.
3. Plyometrics: Plyometrics or plyo exercises are movements you conduct to help boost speed and power. They are explosive in nature and tend to classify as either ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ exercises depending on contact time with the floor. See our Plyo 101 article for more.
That's them done, let's move on.
What Is Triphasic Training?
This principle was coined by American college strength coach Cal Dietz. The basic philosophy is that all human movement is dynamic (we're looking at athletic movement) and those movements are classified by 3 primary modes of muscle contraction.
Put simply these are:
1. Concentric: Muscle contracts and gets shorter (think traditional bicep curl or quad as you stand up from a squat)
2. Eccentric: Muscle contracts and gets longer (think hamstring during swing phase of sprinting or the quads during the lowering portion of a squat)
3. Isometric: Muscle contracts and stays - mostly - static (think pause section of a pause squat or doing an athletic movement against an immovable object)
The method has been widely shown to be effective in producing speed and power in athletic populations and this author essentially uses the concept as a foundation to pretty much all programming. What we mean by that is that you don't necessarily need to militantly use it such that it is a 'Triphasic Plan', more that it is an approach that underpins the various other methodologies you might select. For instance you might have a classic '5x5 strength plan' but include blocks where you mix up eccentric, isometric and concentric focused sessions. The plan is a bog standard 5x5 one but you're mixing up your contraction focus. People in the know might scream, "that's triphasic!" but really you're just doing something quite logical.
So with that principle as an underpinner, let's explore a couple more methods of training for speed and power in the weightroom. We promise we'll keep this simple.
Complex + Contrast Training
These methods are pretty similar in approach with slight detail differences.
Complex training typically requires completion of a heavy weighted movement followed by a plyometric movement in a similar movement pattern e.g. barbell back squat followed by a countermovement jump or a weighted lunge followed by stride bounds.
Contrast training typically requires you complete a maximal, or close to max, lift followed by a higher velocity, lighter weight version of the same movement. Again, easy example being a 2RM squat followed by a 30-60% 1RM jump squat.
French Contrast Training
Similar again but typically involving 4 exercises completed one after the other (or with short rests). The order going like this :
1. Max or near max compound lift (90%+ Heavy Back Squat)
2. Plyometric movement (Reactive Depth Jump)
3. High velocity compound lift (30-60% 1RM Hip Snatch)
4. Plyometric or accelerated plyometric movement (Band Assisted Vertical Jump)
The benefit of this method, and its popularity, generally stems from the fact it covers a few sections of the Force (or Load, remember that?) Velocity Curve and pushes the athlete to cover more bases of explosivity, thus making them an essentially better conditioned athlete for all forms of power expression. Or that's how it's supposed to work.
All three of these methods can be used however you want really but a nice way to organise them is to plan around vertical and horizontal emphasis. You could programme an entire mesocycle of vertical-oriented training or mix them up in your microcycle depending on the demands of your sport or how much fun you want to have.
4 Week / 2 Session Complex Training Lower Vertical Bias With Upper Body Push/Pull:
Week 1-2 / Session 1:
A1 90% Barbell Front Squat x3
A2 Reactive Vertical Jumps x3
B1 90% Bulgarian Split Squat x3 (each leg)
B2 Reactive Lunge Jumps x3
C1 90% Barbell Bench Press x3
C2 'Plyometric' or Explosive Push Up x3